Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

I have always loved New Year's Eve. It seems big. A new year. I always feel like it should be fresh and new. We never celebrate in any big fashion, but the kids are allowed to stay up (if they can) to ring in the new year. So tonight, we are hanging out as a family, Kiddo is playing Lego Harry Potter (my Christmas gift) with Daddy, Kutey is beading, and I am, well, I am relaxing.

I hope your New Year's Eve is all you wish for!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Ducks realigned, mostly

After all the frustration of having a lost package it turns out it was delivered to the neighbor! She didn't notice right away, but once she did, she brought it over. I was much relieved! So the Christmas Ducks were lined up again, no thanks to UPS!

There is still one duck that has decided that "arrives by Christmas" is a relative statement, with "by" meaning any day near Christmas, which includes AFTER Christmas. Thankfully it is a gift for an adult who can hopefully handle the fact that it will not be in her hands on Christmas Day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Ducks

Christmas, in case you weren't paying attention, is only 4 days away. Your shopping is done, right? No?

I thought I had my Christmas Ducks in a row, gifts are either stashed away or scheduled to be delivered the next couple of days--and only 2 at that!--but UPS has totally messed it up. Knocked those ducks totally out of the line. One of them even got lost.

You see, my kids asked for very little. Kutey? All she wanted were princesses and a pink soft blanket. That was easy enough. Kiddo? He picked out two games (Rush Hour and Blokus To Go) and a marble track. That's it. Santa *should* be able to oblige, right? The marble track was the trickiest. It was specific. Add to that the fact that I have done the majority of my shopping online, and it got trickier. I did go out looking for one, but Toy* R Us apparently stocks nothing in their store, and the other 3 stores I checked didn't have one either. In fact, they had no marble tracks. Who knew this was going to be such a tricky request? Amazon was out of the one he wanted, but I found it through Toy* R Us online. So I ordered it. Cost more, but it was the one he wanted. Then all that was left was the waiting...

It was scheduled to be delivered today. But we had snow (yes, AGAIN), so I really didn't expect it would show up. I checked tracking tonight at about nine. They said it was delivered at 3:04 pm and left at the front door. So I checked again. Mind you, I had the kids I babysit today, they left through that door at 6, hubby arrived home at 4 and came in through that door, then went back out to shovel, twice. There is no package at my door.

I called the less than helpful UPS people. They'll contact the driver (who delivered what, 200 packages today? You REALLY think he is going to remember anything about my package? I doubt it) to see if he can give me any direction as to where he left it. Um, excuse me? It said front door. Exactly how big do you think my front doorway is? Add to that the fact that my working doorbell never rang, and my ever vigilant dog who barks when a delivery person delivers a package next door never barked, and, well, let's just say I am skeptical that the package made it anywhere near my front door. While I was waiting to be transferred to a supervisor (the first woman sounded like she was talking to me from her kitchen on a terrible headset that I could barely understand her through), I put my shoes on and went outside. I looked around the ENTIRE front of my house--well, at least where one could reasonably anticipate stepping, what with the three feet of snow on the ground. Nope, there is no package there. Supervisor says she'll send the message to the local to "see if they can talk to the driver." No, they WILL talk to the driver. This is simply not acceptable. Yes, they will talk to the driver and call you back tomorrow--sometime. Great, says me. So I have to sit around my house waiting for a call? Sigh. If they can't do anything (and she really didn't sound like they were even going to try), I'd have to contact Toy* R Us.

I then went out and looked around the neighborhood, just to see if I could see the box at a neighbors. I would think they would have brought it over, but, well, who knows. I didn't see anything, so I called Toy* R Us. I'm not waiting around for UPS to decide they can't help me. Yeah, they can't do much. They'll file a carrier claim and start the investigation. Yeah, great. I did get a refund for the shipping, and he knocked $10 off the price. Great. He would have shipped a new one to me, but, surprise surprise, they are out. I can get a refund of the entire amount if it turns out they can't find it at all, so there is that. But now what?

Kiddo has his heart set on a marble track. I know he will be incredibly disappointed on Christmas morning if there isn't one under the tree. I don't know that I can get one here--even the wrong one--in time for Christmas. And remember, I have already looked at most of the stores in my area. There is one that I am told has marble tracks, so I might have to venture there tomorrow and check it out. Of course, I can't do that until evening. Amazon's 2-day shipping might work, too, but it will have to be the wrong one. Ugh, I just don't know what to do. Suggestions?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recently at my house...

Me: Why are there balls all over the floor?

Kiddo: They're the stars!

Please tell me this isn't one of those things that I think is perfectly normal but happens at no one else's house! Your kids do this too, right?

For the record, there are also a number of balls sitting on piles of books which I believe are planets. I am afraid to ask, though!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

American Swedish Institute--Friday History Field Trip #11, on Thursday

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)


We have a play on the schedule for tomorrow, and though we were at the planetarium this morning, I wanted to squeeze in a Friday History Field Trip this week, so we went this afternoon. Part of the reason I wanted to squeeze in a field trip was that I love going to the Swedish Institute at Christmas time. It is such a beautiful house! When it is decorated for Christmas it is that much more lovely.

This time we went at lunch time and hit the cafe first. They have only a small selection of options, but we managed to find something to eat. Then we sat with our A to Z scavenger hunt and selected a few items we wanted to look for as we went through the house. The A to Z scavenger hunt is great, but a bit long. I read through the items and made some suggestions. Having been to the Institute before really helped, too, since many of the things I could remember, making it easier to give hints to the kids.


The one thing Kiddo really wanted to find this time? All 11 kakelugn, the Swedish tile stoves imported for the home. If you follow the link you will see one of the kakelugn. Photographs are not allowed in the institute, so I can't show any more, but the one shown is a favorite anyway. They are really ornate and so much fun to see. We had previously found 9 of them, but the last 2 were elusive. We managed to find all 11 this time! There is a second one in the basement that we did not know about, as well as one in the gift shop that would have been overlooked.

Kutey was very excited when I mentioned there was a picture of a real princess somewhere in the house. For Christmas they set the tables in the tradition of the various scandinavian cultures and this year for Sweden they set the table to look like the wedding table of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, who married in June. They had pictures of the royals posted in the room. Kutey was in awe. Pictures of an actual princess. In the new year I hope to pull more information about royalty out for her, especially as Prince William gets married. Maybe we can transition from the love of fairytale princesses to knowledge of real princesses. We shall see.

We spent some time playing in the kids area, which has a small play house complete with clothes to dress-up as Sankta Lucia and toy lussekatt and pepparkakor. Kutey loves to dress up as Lucia when we are here. She was looking for the crown from the moment we got there.


There were two interesting special exhibits going on, one on the history of Sankta Lucia, the other "Santa Claus, Coca-Cola, and Swedish Design." Both were an adult. They had lots of Coca-Cola artifacts on display, which the kids enjoyed, but the exhibits are reading intensive and my kids lost interest. As much as they love history, this was just a bit much for them.


As we were leaving, we paused to find the turret on the house, and noted just how deep the snow was along the path. The weekend storm
has made it difficult to get about in the city, even in well-prepared Minnesota. I can't imagine what a storm would do to places less well-equipped to handle it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Due to the Snowstorm

Due to the storm, our regularly scheduled football game has been rescheduled. Oh, yeah, and MOVED to Detroit!

An Old-fashioned Minnesota Snow Storm

















We had a big snow storm yesterday. Over a foot and a half of snow fell over 24 hours. Combine that with wind that caused the snow to drift and drift and drift get the idea. Visibility was less than one-tenth of a mile, best we could tell. We are stranded at my dad's house for the time being, my van is stranded at my sister's house. She brought us here in her 4-wheel drive vehicle, but even it couldn't get us back there last night. We tried, the roads were treacherous at best, but her driveway was so full of snow there was not a chance we could turn into it. So back to my dad's we went. We are fine, warm, and in good company, though, so I can't complain.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Alexander Ramsey House--Friday History Field Trip #10

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)

After three weeks off for illness and holidays, we were ready for another Friday History Field Trip! I was really excited about this one. We were headed to Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul for a Victorian Christmas.

This was another new to me site. Though it was a beautiful house and we should go back when it is not decorated for Christmas, I think it will be a while. An incident there left me a bit less than comfortable with the site in general. Nothing serious, mind you, just something handled poorly.

On to the site.


The house was built from 1868 to 1872 by Alexander Ramsey. Ramsey was appointed Territorial Governor of Minnesota in 1849 and brought his family family here to MN. The house was built much later and occupied largely by Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey. Though they had 3 children, only 1 survived to adulthood. When she married, she moved out of the area. She did return, with her children, later when her husband fell ill and was institutionalized. Her daughters never married and lived in the house until they passed away and donated the house to the Minnesota Historical Society. Because they knew it would one day be a museum, they kept everything. When they took out the original bathtub, they kept it so it could be returned. Most items in the house, therefore, actually belonged to the Ramsey family. In fact, there are over 13,000 artifacts!

The house was built with all the modern conveniences of the time. It had both hot and cold running water, impressive at the time. The furnishings were purchased in New York. It is said that Anna Ramsey (Alexander Ramsey's wife) went on a shopping spree and bought enough to fill 2 box cars! Crazy! But the house is 3 stories. The third story is the servants quarters, where there is no heat, no light, and no running water, as there was in the rest of the house. Still, the average stay of a servant was 10 years! The third floor is also home to the nursery, where the grandchildren played. In it there is a replica doll house built for Laura Furness, Alexander Ramsey's granddaughter. It was built by the same master carpenter as the house, and is built to resemble the house in some ways.


Ramsey was not only territorial governor, he was also the second governor of the state, mayor of St. Paul, U.S. Senator, and secretary of war under President Hayes. He was a very prominent citizen of the state in his time. He is a contemporary of William LeDuc, so it was fun to visit the house for that comparison! I stumped one of the guides when I asked if President Hayes visited the Ramseys and the LeDucs on the same trip. Another guide who overheard chuckled a bit as she said yes, that she believed the President had lunch at the LeDuc House and dinner at the Ramsey House.

In the sense of Minnesota History this was a great place to visit, but it is probably not one of my favorite sites. The kids enjoyed it, though I think we had more fun in the carriage house looking at the books and toys!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Favorite Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Ornament Show & Tell

Jolanthe over at No Ordinary Moments is hosting a "Christmas Ornaments Show and Tell." I couldn't resist!

I love decorating our tree each year. When we got married, we pulled together all of our ornaments--mine from my childhood, and many of my husbands family ornaments from childhood as well. Then we started collecting our own. I will admit that the first year or two I went a bit crazy and bought way to many ornaments. It was just so much fun to select things that were just for us.

This ornament is one that I bought the year we were married. It is a Swarovski limited edition ornament. They make one every year. I bought them for a few years, then realized (once kiddo was born) that if I bought too many, our tree would be covered in crystal, not exactly what I was going for. So I bought just the ones for special years--so far, the years my kids were born. I'll add as I see fit. My kids love these ornaments because they cast rainbows about the whole room when the sun hits them.

One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood Christmas trees is getting to put my very own ornaments on the tree. I wanted to pass that on to my kids, so they have been collecting their own ornaments from birth. They both have this one, from their very first Christmas. They are engraved on the heart with their names and birth date.

When my grandparents downsized from their house to an apartment, they also downsized their Christmas ornament collection. I was the lucky recipient of this wise man. He was part of a set (my sisters received the other parts) and I remember them hanging on their tree. It brings back tons of wonderful Christmas memories.

This is one I have had forever. It was made for me when I was young by my great aunt. It has always been one of my favorite ornaments. I have tried to duplicate the pattern--without success--so I can give one to each of my children along with the other children I give ornaments every year. One of these years I will figure it out!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The snow is falling.
The kids are painting.
The tea is warm and soothing.

A winter's day's peace.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Free Christmas Music

I realize this is not for everyone out there. But maybe I have some readers who would like it!

Amazon MP3 downloads store currently has an entire VeggieTales Christmas album to download for FREE. Yep, FREE.

The album is "The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree." There are 16 tracks on the album, and there is a story that goes along through the album with the songs. It is kind of fun! Probably especially if you like VeggieTales...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why do kids always seem sickest in the middle of the night?

We spent yesterday pondering whether or not Kutey's cough was getting worse and whether or not Kiddo was getting sick. By the time they went to bed, they seemed OK. Kiddo was likely getting a cold, but Kutey seemed no different than she has for the last couple of weeks. She has a lingering cough, but my Pediatric Nurse Practitioner friend didn't seem concerned when she heard it on Thursday. Even when I said it had been around for a few weeks. So we all went to bed.

Kutey woke up at 1 am and called for me. She sounded worse, but I expected to be able to go in and get her to go back to sleep. When I opened the door to her room, however, it became apparent something different was going to happen. She was struggling to breathe, it sounded completely wheezy. I brought her to our room, so she wouldn't wake up Kiddo, and held her for a bit, trying to calm her down, poor miserable thing. Then I tried to lay her down again so we could all go to sleep. No go. I tried propping her up, since being vertical seemed to help. Nope. So I propped myself up with pillows, and laid her on my chest, and tried to relax her, while in my head I am frantically wondering whether we need to be at the ER, whether it is worth waking up my PNP friend, and absolutely not sleeping. Neither was hubby.

Eventually (it felt like HOURS, but really, it was only about an hour), I was able to lay Kutey down and her breathing had eased. She slept the rest of the night (I, on the other hand, woke up several times, just to make sure she was still breathing!). She woke up this morning at about 9, chipper as all get out, ready for breakfast, seeming none the worse for the night. Yes, she has a cough, but no fever, and certainly nothing that is raising any concern.

Why do they only seem terribly sick at night, when I am to tired to be rational? Why?

I guess I should just be grateful it seems to have been brief. Hopefully we will all sleep tonight...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday History Field Trip--Postponed

This weeks field trip was planned. I know Kiddo is not feeling perfect when I tell him to get ready to go on our history field trip, and he says he isn't feeling well. He rarely passes up a chance to learn more history. I wish I could say we capitalized on the free time, but I let the kids goof off most of the day.

We'll be back to our Friday History Field Trips after the holiday weekend. And the one planned for this week? We'll fit it in, likely in January!

Our Classroom Today--November 16

We held school inside a log today!


Actually, the kids choose to hang out here, drawing in their notebooks. We did not direct it in any way, which is the best. The log is part of a newer exhibit at the zoo, it allows the kids to get closer to the exhibit. The log runs through an exhibit of monkeys--Black and White Colobus Monkeys and De Brazza’s Monkeys--along with Red River Hogs.


The funny thing is the Black and White Colobus monkeys like to lay on top of the log. From the inside of the log you can't see them! From the outside, though, they are very close! The kids started in an area in the base of an artificial tree where they could get up close and personal with the fish. They were all packed in there, all with their notebooks, all blissfully drawing various things. They moved, somewhat pack-like to the log and continued to draw. I love these days!

The kids did eventually tire of the log, and we moved on. When we reached the aquarium, we noticed this fish.

Over and over and over and over again it did that.

I admit, I was more fascinated than the kids. I think there is something not right about this fish. There were no volunteers or keepers around to ask about the behavior, but it is not normal fish behavior. I would call it the equivalent of pacing in a terrestrial animal, which is not good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Buffalo Bills

This morning while we were at my MOMS Club meeting, Kutey was in the kids room. We got there halfway through the meeting, in time for the speaker (I planned it that way). I took Kutey's coat and sent her into the room, not really worrying about it (I made sure the adult in charge saw she was there, but that was it). I went in and set Kiddo up in the back of the room, then quickly sat down to listen to the speaker. I had been sitting down for 2 minutes when one of the moms helping in the kids room came over to me. It seems that they were having snack, but Kutey would not have one until I said it was OK. Oy. Both of my kids are like this. They will not take something offered to them unless I say it is OK. I don't know where it comes from. I don't remember making an issue of it. I don't mind, it is just kind of funny.

I asked Kutey about it after the meeting, and she said she told the mom she wasn't sure if she should have a snack. The mom knows me and understood what that meant, and hence came and asked me. I asked Kutey what the snack was and she said "Buffalo Bills." Don't know what that is? Me either! Care to make a guess (and no fair guessing if you were at the meeting!)

A break through

This morning I packed the kids up and headed for my MOMS Club monthly meeting. Being the only homeschooler in the group is sometimes tricky. Obviously the kids who are there are much younger than Kiddo. But it is still social time for Kutey, and for me. And this morning they had a professional organizer come to speak. I am not so very organized, so I wanted to go and listen. But what to do with Kiddo...

I have been thinking about this for a few days. Sometimes I have another homeschooling friend who will watch the kids while I go to an event. But she has been VERY stressed lately and I did not want to add to her burden. Hubby couldn't stay home for the morning. What to do?

Then an amazing thing happened. Kiddo started reading. To himself. BY himself. Don't get me wrong. He is a good reader, he just has had very little interest in reading to himself. Or by himself. He wants me there to help, he wants to read to me. I love that, but it also means he doesn't read as much as he could. But we came home from the library on Tuesday, he had a new book, he was tired, and he just sat down and read. He finished the book that night. Yesterday he picked up another one.

I had my solution. I brought Kiddo, and his books. I also printed off some "Kidoku" from KrazyDad (LOVE his site!), which Kiddo enjoys. I had a few KenKen left from my last KenKen classroom email for him to do, and I printed a few worksheets from Math Fact Cafe.

He sat quietly in the back of the quietly in fact that some of the moms didn't know he was there. He finished his book, started the next, and worked through 8 kidoku. He was happy, I was happy, Kutey was happy. It was only 45 minutes, but it was a good 45 minutes.

Did I learn anything new from the speaker? Nothing new. I had heard most of what she said before. Just a restating of what I already know. It will take a mental shift for me to be able to get through my clutter, just telling me how to organize things doesn't really help. I am glad I went. The presenter is a homeschooler in my area and I have been curious about her business for a while. I won't be hiring her anytime soon, but it was nice to get to hear her speak.

But even better? I know now that I can go to these things, that Kiddo will be content with his books and puzzles while we are there. And that is a gift.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Northfield Historical Society--Friday History Field Trip #9

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)

This week our Friday History Field Trip took us back to the scene of the crime!


Actually, there was no crime here. This is where the James-Younger Gang was defeated. It is the proud moment in the city of Northfield's history that is celebrated every year the weekend after Labor Day. Every year, we go to the festivities, watch the reenactment, and generally have fun. But we had never taken the time (or braved the crowds) to go to the museum.

The museum is housed in what was the First National Bank in Northfield. Interestingly enough, most everything inside is original. The floors and counters are the same, the vault is the same, they have the original ledger on display, it is truly stepping back to the 1870's. The bank was only housed here for a short time, moving a few years after the thwarted robbery to it's present location across the street on the opposite corner. I don't know how they managed to keep this particular space so well preserved, given the timeline. Still, it is always so much fun to go into a building that is as it was.

The museum itself is small, but mostly well done. There is a brief video to watch that takes you through the events of September 7, 1876, the day of the attempted robbery, along with some of the events leading up to it. There are wall boards to read about the gang, the town, and the events of the day.


From there you proceed into the actual bank, where you can see the vault that was actually open on the day of the robbery. The robbers never got inside, however, largely due to the valiant efforts of bank employees who insisted it was on a timer. We spent a lot of time talking about why a robbery would have been so destructive to the town. Now, when money is largely electronic and we rarely see large amounts of it in one place, it is difficult to imagine that there would have been vast sums of money in the bank. We also live in a time when our deposits are insured, which was not the case then. I could see Kiddo wrapping his head around this as we stood there. It was here, in the actual bank, that I most wished for a guide for our tour. Here, where Kiddo had questions to which I could not remember the answers. We were fortunate, however, that the director wandered through while we stood there. Kiddo got to ask him a few questions, he showed us a seal which he stamped into play money for each of the kids, and verified some of the things I thought I remembered.

From there, you head into the artifact room. Kutey was lost at this point--tired and bored. Kiddo, however, insisted on viewing every single thing in the room and reading (or having me read) every description. My favorite display was of two inlaid wooden boxes made by the Younger brothers while they were in prison in Stillwater. My one complaint? On two description cards regarding weapons (they have quite a few on display), they used the word "witch" where they meant "which." Small, I know, but it is not helpful to young readers!


The staff at the museum was great. We tend to take a long time when we go to this kind of place, where there is no tour. On more than one occasion, a staff person wandered through and commented that we must be looking at every detail! We were; the other people who watched the video at the same time as us were long gone. You could tell they were also pleased to see the kids enjoying themselves in this setting. On the way out, they kids were even given a piece of candy by the woman at the counter. She seemed genuinely impressed with their behavior and attention to the exhibits.

We enjoyed our visit immensely. It was nice to get a more in depth picture of the events that transpired that day in 1876, an event we revisit each year. We are already making plans to return when the weather is nicer to do their podcast walking tour of Northfield! Sounds like great fun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Moment of Irresponsibility and the Kindness of Strangers

I have been known to let the tank in my van run quite low. I have always let the tank run very low before refilling. I don't like putting gas in the car. Something about the time it takes to stand there and fill it, and the fact that the prices are so volatile, making me constantly feel like I could get a better deal if I wait--which only happens some of the time. Whatever the reason, I let the tank run low.

Today was no different as we headed out for our Tuesday group gathering. The tank was low. I noticed it was (it isn't that I don't notice most of the time!), but I thought I had enough to get to the nature center and then to the nearest gas station afterwards. No big deal. The low fuel light wasn't on yet, after all! Unfortunately, the light came on just as we turned away from the gas stations. I had a few minutes, so I thought, "oh well, we'll just head over to the next commercial area and get gas there." See, I knew enough to know there was a commercial area. In my area, that would mean there was a gas station. Or three. Sometimes literally three on one corner.

That assumption was absolutely wrong. There was no gas station there. There was no gas station at the next commercial area. By now I had driven far enough that I figured there HAD to be one closer than turning around and going back to the known gas station. I always figure I have about 15 to 20 miles once the light has come on, but I try not to have to go more than 10, because I just don't know. Nor do I want to find out exactly how far I can go.

I did find one gas station, a C*stco gas station, but as I am not a member, I didn't even bother to stop. I was only 3 miles into my low fuel light at that point, and I knew I was near the intersection of two major highways. There HAD to be a gas station around. There just HAD to be. 7 miles later I had circled back to the C*stco gas station, having been completely unable to find ANY other gas station. I drove 10 miles and couldn't find a single other station.

At this point I am freaking out about running out of gas with 2 kids in the car in an area I don't know well. Add to that the fact that, while I now have a working cell phone (I had a non-working one for a while), I didn't have any of the numbers for the friends I was meeting in it. Yep, I was feeling a bit stuck. So I pulled into the C*stco gas station.

I wish I could say the attendant was helpful. He wasn't. He told me there was a gas station about a mile away and told me how to get there--sort of. But I had already hit the limit on how far I thought I could go on the low fuel light. I was in tears. I was trying to explain to him that I didn't want to risk that with two kids in the car. especially since I now have to restart the car, which will take more fuel. He had no other solution for me.

Enter the stranger who saved my day. A kind gentleman who saw my distress and asked if I had no money. I explained that I had money--CASH even--but that I couldn't pay for gas here at this station because they don't take cash. Or V*sa. And that was all I had. Or at least I tried to explain that. Remember, I was crying. And with a thick accent, he offered to pump fuel for me. He offered to put $10 of gas in my van. I thanked him. I told him $5 was fine, that I would pay him. and through tears, I fumbled around to open the fuel door, to gather my cash, to not get in the way of the kind gentleman pumping gas for me.

And he put $5 worth of gas in my van. And I drove the 1+ miles to the next gas station. I filled the tank, and tried to shake off the terror. It is one thing to run out of gas by myself. I can handle it. I can walk. But to put my kids in that position. Not exactly my best plan. I felt terribly irresponsible. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. I wish him all the good karma he deserves.

Friday, November 5, 2010

W.W. Mayo House--Friday History Field Trip #8

Today's field trip almost wasn't.

I made plans to go to the W.W. Mayo House in Le Sueur, checked the website, made sure they were open, and we went! When we arrived, however, they weren't open. Curious, since the website actually says through November, and it is the first week of November. The kind woman who was in the entrance building (working at the florist that shares the space), allowed us to wait for the museum person. She arrived, and apologized, and explained. The W.W. Mayo house is a cooperative site, meaning the Minnesota Historical Society works with the Mayo House Interpretive Society(MHIS). Truthfully, the site is managed by the MHIS. The information on the Minnesota Historical Society website is not entirely accurate, and MHIS has no control over what goes there. Communication seems to be an issue. OK, but I had driven an hour with my kids to go to the W.W. Mayo house. This is where I renewed my faith in people. She gave us the tour anyway! She opened the house just for us. Thank you, Becky!


W.W. Mayo house was built in 1859 by Dr. W.W. Mayo (of Mayo Clinic fame). This is where he had his first medical practice, and where his first son was born. The house itself is small. Very small. Apparently Mayo was known as "The Little Doctor." He was short. He was my height, and I am not tall! The house shows this. A trip upstairs is tricky for me; the kids were fine, I had to duck. The ceilings are also slanted at the doorways, making it even more complicated. The doors on the main floor have been heightened, the family that lived in the house after the Mayo's left for Rochester were taller. They also added on many rooms, rooms which have since been removed to allow the house to depict the time of the Mayos.

W.W. Mayo came to Minnesota from Indiana in search of relief from malaria. Given our climate, malaria was not as prevalent here as it was in some southern states. he first settled in St. Paul, but didn't open a medical practice there, finding that there were already too many doctors in the small city. Instead, his wife opened a milliners shop, as she had in Indiana. It is likely this shop was the main source of income for the family at the time. Eventually they moved to Le Sueur. They only lived here until 1863, when they moved to Rochester where in 1889 W.W. Mayo was asked to be the medical director of St. Mary's Hospital which would become the center of the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic--the first private medical clinic in the United States--was opened in 1903. More about that history can be found here.

My favorite tidbit of information from the tour was that the medical course Dr. Mayo took was--get this--16 WEEKS long. It took longer to become a baker! Mayo did, however, have 2 medical degrees, and had studied science prior to medical school. He also worked as a tailor, a census taker, and newspaper publisher, just to name a few! I think the world is glad he finally settled into medicine, I know we here in Minnesota are.


Outside the house there is a small park with a statue entitled "The Mothers," honoring the two Louises (Mayo and Cosgrove) of the W.W. Mayo house. The statue begs for children to run around it, and so mine did!


When the Mayo's left, the house was occupied by the Cosgrove family for 3 generations. The Cosgrove family started Green Giant, a canned vegetable company currently owned by General Mills. Even though there is no Green Giant presence in Le Sueur any more, the historical connection is still celebrated and a large green giant sign is visible from the road. The house was added onto for the three generations of Cosgroves who loved there. It has been returned to the way it was when the Mayo's lived there, but the interpretive building has information on the Cosgroves as well.

Due to the tour guide needing to get to a meeting, we agreed to watch the introductory video after our tour rather than before. I was grateful for her accommodation. As we left, I grabbed a brochure on Ottawa Township. Never heard of it. The Florist assured me it was just a few miles down the road, and though nothing would be open, it was still interesting to drive through. She also mentioned that she had been homeschooled a few years herself, love it when people feel compelled to mention that! It makes what we do feel less out of the ordinary.


The town was plotted and never really became much. It does, however, have MANY old buildings. We love old buildings. The brochure I picked up had a few sentences about the buildings that we read as we stopped in front of the buildings. My favorite was the school house from 1915.


I love buildings like this. I wish there was an infinite amount money for their preservation. It would be fun to have historic programming in this building, instead of seeing it fenced in and boarded up. Maybe someday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday History Field Trips

After the three Fridays at Fort Snelling, and the next Friday at Split Rock Lighthouse, I had another Friday History field trip planned to a history festival. Though we ended up not going due to a simply overwhelming week, I started to think that Fridays were starting to be History Field Trip days.

So I started planning them that way. For the last several weeks, we have been going on field trips to historical sites in our area. I haven't organized any formal groups, finding instead that we are able to get more out of it when we go alone. Kiddo likes to explore things more slowly than many kids do. This is something that really interests him; I want to make sure he has the time he needs to see what he wants to see. Not to mention the freedom to ask the questions he wants to ask. I have found that sometimes, it is just better to go it alone. We still go on some field trips with others, and enjoy those experiences, but having the freedom to spend the time we want to spend and not having to wait for others has proven to be a big benefit.

I have three more field trips to update--Folsom House in Taylors Falls, Marine Mill in Marine on St. Croix, and Le Duc House in Hastings. But if you are interested in history, keep watching for the posts about out Friday History Field Trips!

The Dentist

The kids had dentist appointments this morning--ya know, the 6 month cleaning and check-up. I'd like to report that there were no cavities, but I can't. And this isn't the first time I can't say that. I always hesitate to mention that my kids have cavities, because I always feel judged. "My kids don't have cavities, but then, they don't drink soda" as their child downs their second juice box in half an hour. Or "Really? I am 40 and still don't have cavities! But I brush my teeth really well." These are actual statements I have heard when people find out my kids have cavities.

Yep, my kids don't drink soda either, they get a glass of juice with breakfast, and maybe when they have a cold they get a little more. Sugary snacks? not really. Brush their teeth? Yep, we still brush their teeth for them (on the dentist's recommendation, apparently the dexterity to do such things on their own isn't present for another few years). Floss? Yep, daily.

They just have cavity prone teeth. I don't know where it comes from (and please, don't guilt me about my nutrition during pregnancy--that is long past, I can't go back in time and fix that, if that even is what the problem is!) What I do know is that I feel bad enough. I don't need anyone adding to my mother's guilt.

And I am grateful. We live an a place where we have the ability to get the teeth repaired. We have dental insurance that covers some of the cost. Our dentist only does white fillings, so there is no way to tell that the kids have had fillings--unless you look closely...

I'm not looking for an answer to why. I don't need any judgment. I just have to get my kids through the appointments. Maybe a unit on dental health is in our future...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Le Duc Historic Estate--Friday History Field Trip #7

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)
This week's Friday History Field Trip was to LeDuc Historic Estate in Hastings. I am having so much fun finding these sites! I love that my kids are enough into history that they enjoy it, too. Even though Kutey says she doesn't like history.


William LeDuc and his wife Mary moved to Minnesota in the 1850's. They originally moved to St. Paul, but eventually moved Hastings. They had farms in the area, and LeDuc was involved in many other ventures as well. LeDuc House was completed in 1865-66 and is fairly unaltered since that time. The timing of the house is interesting, because William LeDuc, the builder, was a Civil War officer. While he was off at war, his wife was back in Ohio with her mother. The house was built largely in their absence. It is also very early in the history of Minnesota as a state. They were building the house at a time when the area was largely wilderness. As such, it is a massive house. It also apparently cost a a small fortune when built. They thought it might cost as much as $5000, a great deal of money at the time. When completed, however, it was 6 times that much--$30,000. It took the family years--and an inheritance--to finally get back on firm financial footing.


LeDuc tried many things to make his fortune, held many positions. Most notably, he was the Commissioner of Agriculture under President Rutherford B. Hayes. The LeDuc's also hosted the first presidential visit to the State of Minnesota, too. Rutherford B. Hayes, of course.


The house is based on an Andrew Jackson Downing design that Mary found in a book entitled "Cottage Residences." It is the Headley House in the Hudson River Valley. Mary LeDuc reversed the plan by holding it up to a window and tracing it. The windows are also not quite as long as they should have been. Mary LeDuc wanted them to go all the way to the floor, but the builder convinced her that in Minnesota that would be a poor choice, so they end 15 inches from the floor. Still very large.


At LeDuc you go on a guided tour, which is what Kiddo prefers. He likes that he can ask as many questions as he needs. I like that I don't need to know anything when I go in. I am learning with the kids. Our LeDuc tour had only one other couple on it, which was wonderful, too. I am not always sure what people think when I show up with a 7 year-old and a 4 year-old. This couple complimented us at the end, told Kiddo he asked good questions, and commented on how good they were. I know these things, but it is always nice when others recognize them, too!


We also wandered about outside the house for a bit, and found some favorite things there. First up, Chickens!
Ever since our visit to St. Augustine in May, Kutey has had a thing for chickens, particularly for feeding them! So we spent a bit of time feeding the chickens bits of grass. There was a whole list of things you could find around the yard that the chickens like to eat (along with what you SHOULDN'T feed them!). So close to the end of the growing season here in Minnesota, however, we were lucky to find grass!

Kiddo's favorite Ben Franklin invention. We look for them often, but honestly, this one sort of snuck up on us. It is a lovely example however.


Want to go on your own tour of LeDuc? You can! I love this site. They have a virtual tour on their website! It even shows the basement and the third floor, areas that are not available for tour in person. 200 photographs and 50 interactive 360 degree panoramics. They won't be open again for tours until Spring (we literally hit the last Friday), but the virtual tour is good! And if you aren't from the area, the virtual tour will give you a bit of an idea of what we got to see!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Go here and watch this!

Team Ra-Ras Kicks Breast Cancer

From the site: The Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, teaming up with over 130 NFL Alumni Philadelphia Chapter Cheerleaders and UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania, invite the world to help "Team Ra-Ras Kick Breast Cancer." To encourage viewers to share the video with others and increase breast cancer awareness, UnitedHealthcare will donate ten cents ($.10) per view to The Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

It is for a great cause, one important to me. Give 4 minutes of your life to support the cause. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I am trying to understand. Kiddo has been introduced to Pokemon. His cousin is into it, has been for over a year. We spent a lot of time with his family over the weekend (for our annual fall camping trip), and Pokemon was present. Kiddo has no cards. Up until this weekend I don't think he knew much about them at all, except for the little bit cousin C explain in previous short encounters. But now. Well, now he knows. He hasn't asked for any cards of his own (Thank goodness!), but he is creating his own characters, drawing them, talking about damage points, powers, etc. I don't understand any of it (admittedly I have not tried). Here is my question: is there any thing redeeming about Pokemon? Will it help him with, say, math? Logical reasoning? Is there a reason I should stop ignoring it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

It is a rainy, blustery day here, which has me sitting inside planning. And thinking. Way to much. My current rumination of choice is how to avoid doing too much.

It is a conscious effort for me this year, avoiding over-scheduling. It isn't easy. Every option out there sounds wonderful! In this week already, I have had to turn down the opportunity to go to two different Halloween activities. Then there are the activities that come through our local homeschooling groups. There are so many! You could literally never be at home. I know, there are weeks when we aren't! Add to all the homeschool activities all the after school and evening activities for school-age kids. I view evenings as family time, so I limit those activities.

So I am being vigilant. But I feel guilty, too. What if I am skipping activities that my kids would find enriching? Are we attending enough activities so that they are making enough social connections? Should I just go to every activity I think my kids might possibly enjoy? What about the other stuff, ya know, like reading and math?

I don't remember there being this many options when I was young! Maybe my parents just did a better job of picking for us. I don't feel like I missed out, either. I didn't attend more than one or two theater productions in my elementary years (and I couldn't tell you what they were! Very memorable, no?) We probably went on two field trips a year. As a family we went to the zoo once or twice a year, maybe. We hit a few other sites, maybe one site a year. I know I have been to Fort Snelling more times in the last year and a half than I had been there in my entire life prior to that. And I did not feel deprived as a child.


How do you choose? How do you avoid over-committing, especially when everyone around you seems to be doing so much more?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marine Mill Site--Friday History Field Trip #6, On Saturday

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)Every year our family joins my family of origin and some extended family members for a 4 day camping trip in October. We go to William O'Brien State Park, which is close to the Twin Cities metro area. That allows those who don't want to camp to come out for a day or two. The park is coincidentally just down the St. Croix River from our last Friday History Field Trip--Folsom House.

Because we were camping this weekend, I chose a site close to the campground for our Friday History Field Trip--the mill site at Marine on St. Croix. Since Friday was a big day of visitors--there were 9 children 7 and under--we chose to wait a day and go on this particular field trip on Saturday.

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

The site is basically interpretive signs marking the ruins of of what was the first commercial saw mill in Minnesota. It was built in 1839, prior to Minnesota becoming a state, and closed in 1895. Seems like a short lifespan, but the raw lumber was farther away by then, I am sure. All that remains are the stone foundations of some of the buildings. The signs help you to envision how much actually stood here, though, over 115 years ago.

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

Marine on St. Croix is a cute little town, too, so some in our group ventured into the little shops--getting coffees and hot cocoas and $2 chocolates.

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

Across the street from the actual mill site there is a cabin marked with a historical marker sign as an "Early Settler's Cabin." We went and read the sign, viewed a mill pond (at least I am pretty sure that is what is was, I didn't photograph the sign, so I can't remember for sure). It is a restored cabin, you can see in the picture where the original logs are (the grey at the top).

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

The sites are small and easy to see in a short amount of time. We managed to squeeze them in between rain showers (so it was really wet, but not bad). This field trip did, however, prove to me that it is sometimes better to go alone than with a group. The other 7-year-old was not as interested in history. Kiddo was torn between running ahead with the him and going slower and soaking it all in. Thankfully it is an easy site to revisit, maybe in the summer!